The Instigator
Bnesiba
Con (against)
Winning
21 Points
The Contender
nickoboy1992
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points

Kant's catagorical imperitive is superior to J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/14/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,782 times Debate No: 6531
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (48)
Votes (4)

 

Bnesiba

Con

A debate on moral philosophy.

I will defer to the aff/pro for the first speech.
nickoboy1992

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for starting this debate I will letter my arguments for clarity.

A. Any moral philosophy tries to grasp what is and what should be in terms of reality. J. S. Mill and his philosophy however are based on a major flaw with what is. He bases the ideal of Utility on happiness which means that individuals are classifying an act as good or bad. According to Mill however, this classification must be based on happiness in and of itself. Thus Mill misinterprets what is or is not "good" on a whole or raising utility. The implication of this argument is twofold:
1. There is some kind of intrinsic good in reality as something has to make us "happy"
2. Mill misinterprets this good and says this good is happiness thus suspending the moral philosophy into a cycle of does this make something happy.
A classification of happiness is always going to be arbitrary however. If we accept Mill's framework of there being something like happiness that we are always going to want to increase, we place a value judgment on certain actions. For example if ice cream made me happy then we place a value of good on ice cream. This judgment in and of itself is flawed as there can be no concrete version of reality. Martian Heidegger explicates

Hence all Being is "Becoming." The broad vista onto Becoming is a preview of and perspective into the powering of will to power. It intends only that will to power "be" as such. But this vistalike perspective into the will to power pertains to the will to power itself. As the empowering for over powering, will to power, is as Nietzsche says, "perspectival" in a way the previews and "sees through". But the "perspective" is never the mere angle of vision from which something is seen; rather, this perspectival vista looks towards "conditions of preservation/enhancement." As, conditions, the "viewpoints" posited in such "seeing" are of such a kind that they must be reckoned on and reckoned with. They take the form of "numbers" and "measurement," that is, values. Values "are everywhere reducible to this numerical and mensural scale of force" (WM, 710). Nietzsche always understands "force" in the sense of power; that is will to power. Number is essentially "perspectival form" (WM, 490). Thus it is bound up with the "seeing" that is proper to will to power, as seeing that in its very essence is reckoning with values. "Value" has the character of "viewpoint". Values "are" not, nor do they have validity "in themselves." In order also occasionally to become "viewpoints" (WM< 715)."

Because as Heidegger says, nothing onto itself is true in the form of a value, Mill's Utilitarianism is based on a misconception. To put it more simply, Mill's principle is based on an interpretation of reality, not what is.

B. The way a utilitarian calculus is framed, what is good can not be determined in advanced. Since there is no way to predict the future there is no way to know if your action is good or bad in the present. For example, if i jumped into a swimming pool with the intention of saving a drowning child but hit another child who preceded to drown because of my action, it would be said i did a morally wrong (i.e. bad) thing. Even if we were to know the result of the action with some degree of certainty, we can not know what would have possibly happened if we were to omit from taking action. Going back to my previous example, what I did not know jumping into the pool was that if i had not jumped into the pool, the lifeguard would have and the whole situation would have been adverted. Since that action was not taken however it is impossible to know what the results of omitting the action would be.

C. There is no way to weigh how good an action is. Since all the calculations are based upon happiness, there must be some way to tell how happy a person is. Alas no such measurement exists. I can not weigh the happiness that i have when i win a debate, and the happiness i get from swimming because there is no ultra basic unit to weigh happiness.

D. Utilitarianism requires sacrifice to a non-existent societal organism. Society is made up of people and it is people alone who exist. However, utilitarianism says that there will be some "greater good" for society. This good may require some individuals to sacrifice or give up some for that society up to an including thier lives. However each individual is a universe onto themselves. When an individual dies, the universe that was and all ideals (the perspectival vista that Heidegger talks about) disappear because that individual no longer exists on this plane. You destroy existence my dear opponent.

E. Utilitarianism justifies slavery and the deaths of millions of people as long is there is a rise of the overall level of happiness. Remember Hitler's justification for the holocaust and Stalin's for his own mass murders? Well those are justified under a utilitarian calculus since they sought the greater good. Same with slavery.

Deontology (abbreviated deon from this point on) solves for all of these because it prevents individuals from doing things detrimental to the existence of society.
A. is solved because the existence of society and of an individual is concrete. Deon sets up the categorical imperative to protect society and allow social interaction, both of which are not value judgments.

B-E. are solved because these are unique criticisms of Utilitarianism.

Since A. Misrepresents existence and B-E have negative implications (listed below) i don't need to prove that deon is good only that it is comparatively better than Util. Deon has no harms (even if my opponent says there is no net benefit to it) and is thus superior. By saying there are no harms i am making a negative claim that something does not exist meaning that my opponent has the burden to prove me wrong since there are an infinite possibilities that can exist. For example if i said aliens do not exist, since space is infinite and i can not make something appear to prove it does not exist, aliens have to be proven to exist to prove that claim as false.

The impacts of the arguments listed above
B. By not being able to tell if an action will be good or bad in the present one of two things will occur, either action will be stopped because i will never be able to know if my action is good or bad and thus i would not take action to prevent being morally wrong or good and bad will cease to have function as we can not apply it to people with any degree of meaning since people take action without care of an action being good or bad. Legal systems and institutions of the like cease to function as their goal is to evaluate actions as good or bad.
C. Same as B
D. Destroys the existence of individual universes. For more read Kierkegaard.
E. This is obviously bad as it proves that any future Hitler or Stalin can justify their actions.

Now for some positive benefits of Deon just in case i lose my burden argument or all my arguments A-E.
Deon is the only rational moral option. H. L. A. Hart furthers
"Any morally adequate political philosophy must recognize that there must be certain protections of freedom and basic interests of individuals. Though the pursuit of the general welfare is indeed legitimate an indeed necessary concern, it is something to be pursued with certain constraints [Deontology for those of you wondering] imposed by the recognition of such rights. No rational person bargaining with others on a footing of equality could agree to regard himself as bound to obey the laws of any government if his freedom and basic interests were not given protection and treated as having priority over mere increases in aggregate welfare." For the sake of space i cut the quote down. Nothing important was omitted. Since society is created by the combination of a people into a system it must be based on deon.

Arguments that were not addressed previously should be considered conceded.
Debate Round No. 1
Bnesiba

Con

I will open by presenting my own case, than move to my opponent's case.

To open, I will define utilitarianism:

According to John Stuart Mill, util holds that actions are right in proportion as then tend to promote happiness, wrong as then tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure.

Utilitarianism is the supreme framework for these reasons:
1. All good ends with utility.
In his book, john Stuart mill makes the bold claim that the reason we want or do anything "good" is to increase happiness or to decrease pain. This may seem far fetched at first, but if you think about it, it is very true.

For example:
Why do we want security? To reduce pain.
Why do we want rights? to increase happiness and to reduce pain.
Why do we want to save lives? To increase potential happiness.
Why do we not want to go to hell? (Religion doesn't apply) because hell is the embodiment of pain.
Why do we want peace? Because with peace comes happiness and less pain.

I can give any number of further examples, but I believe I have proven my point. Basically, ALL GOOD is good because it augments utility.

2. Utility cannot produce bad.

When arguing utilitarianism, one encounters a plethora of very similar and very flawed arguments. These arguments generally go:
"So, you would say it was just to kill 49 people if 51 said they wanted to?"
NO. If you look to my definition, you can clearly see that increasing pain is wrong, and, if this was your only choice, doing nothing would end with more good.

3. Even without predictive powers, one must look to utilitarianism.

This is the most prevalent argument against utility. That you can't tell the future. However, if everyone were to truly follow the utilitarian principles to the best of their ability, it would end with an increase in utility. People know what causes pain, and, will when possible, try to avoid these situations and avoid putting others in those situations.

No moral framework can be perfectly implemented, and utilitarianism, although right, is no different in this aspect. Even if it cannot be predicted, one must simply try to the best of their ability.

I will now attack my opponent's framework:

Because my opponent failed to actually define the Categorical Imperative, I will supply the definition from Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals:
"One ought never to act except in such a way that they can also will that their maxim should become a universal law"
For those of you judging, this basically says that people should only act in ways that can be upheld as moral laws. (For example, if I try to justify killing in anger, I would have to say that in all cases, killing because of anger is justified).

1. Kant looks to utilitarianism to discern universality of maxims.
A major flaw in Kant's principle, is that it cannot by itself, tell what should and shouldn't be universal laws. Because of this lack, Kant actually uses utilitarianism.

Quote (Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals):
A man is himself flourishing, but sees others who have to struggle with great hardships (and whom he could easily help); and he thinks 'what does it matter to me? Let every one be as happy as heaven wills or as he can make himself; I won't deprive him of anything; I won't even envy him; only I have no wish to contribute anything to his well being or to his support in distress. Now admittedly if such an attitude were a universal law of nature, mankind could get on perfectly well. But although it is possible that a universal law of nature could subsist in harmony with this maxim, yet it is impossible to will that such a principle should hold everywhere as a law of nature. For a will which decided in this way would be in conflict with itself, since, many a situation might arise in which the man needed love and sympathy from others, and in which, by such a law of nature sprung from his own will, he would rob himself of all hope of the help he wants for himself. "

This quote gives a concrete example of how Kant relies on the principle of utilitarianism to justify a universal law. In this case, he shows that such a universal law would bring pain to the man, and because of this, it cannot be upheld. THIS IS UTILITARIANISM.

Another example is a man who lies (promises to do something w/o intent to do it) in order to escape a sticky social situation. By making this universal, he claims that: it would make promising and the purpose of promising itself impossible. Again, this would make life more painful because there would be no way to trust anyone.

2. Kant's Categorical Imperative does not always lead to good.
Take the classic train example:
You see 5 people walking down the tracks, and see a train coming that they do not notice. Now, you find that (somehow, doesn't matter how) the only way to stop the train is to sacrifice another innocent life to save the lives of the 5 others. Kant would say this was wrong. While, instead of killing one person, you would end up killing 5.

Another example would be during the Holocaust:
You are harboring Jews in your basement, and, the army comes and asks: "are you harboring Jews in your basement?" By the Categorical imperative, your only moral answer would be "Yes".

You can see by these examples, that the categorical imperative cannot always achieve good, while, if you look to my support of utilitarianism, it cannot achieve bad. Because of this, utilitarianism is clearly the superior framework.
--------
Onto my opponent's case

My first remark must be that instead of talking about the categorical imperative, my opponent tries to talk only about deontology in general. (Which, for the judges, is means based morality) He FAILS to even define his side of the case. Because of this, I would urge that all of his Deon arguments be thrown out.

1. There is an intrinsic good, if you look to my support of util; ALL GOOD is only good because it increases happiness and decreases pain.
2. It is not mis-represented, the reason anything IS good is because it augments utility. There is no circular logic here, just good is good because it increases util.

Happiness is NOT arbitrary. We all know what happiness feels like, and what pain is. We also all know that in most circumstances, others will react the same way (in lesser or greater degrees) to the same things that make us happy/unhappy. Because of this, it is very easy to see that we shouldn't do things to others that make us unhappy, and should try to increase the overall happiness.

This is the way the world works, think about it.

B. On this point, you can simply Cross-apply my 3 supporting util, that we don't need to be able to predict the future in order to produce util. Furthermore, you can look to my previous analysis on why happiness is not arbitrary to see that we do in fact know what happiness is.

And, on the swimming pool scenario, you should have looked first. Clearly this would have increased utility even more; thinking about what others will do also helps. (Lifeguard) Basically, if one were to actually think about the morality of the action for a fraction of a second before acting, this would not even be an issue.

C. Yes, there is. If I stab you, you feel pain. If I congratulate you, you feel happy. Even if we cannot measure these things, we must at all times try to minimize pain while maximizing happiness. Furthermore, in his book "Utilitarianism" John Stuart Mill states that if we are deciding between two seemingly equally utility-providing actions, we must look to those who have experienced both in order to discern the just course of action.

D. UTIL REQUIRES NO SACRIFICE.
If everyone were to follow this principle, pain would be being minimized, and no one would need to suffer.

E. util does not justify Bad(slaveetc)MUST MINIMIZE PAIN
nickoboy1992

Pro

nickoboy1992 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
Bnesiba

Con

The pro did warn me that he might be unable to post his rebuttal. because of this, i would urge you to consider his next post (as long as he answers by the next one) as if it were on the previous round.

I still contend i'm right for the reasons above.
nickoboy1992

Pro

nickoboy1992 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Bnesiba

Con

apply my arguments from before. because the pro has not refuted ANY of these points, they all flow con.

because of this, you must vote con.

HOWEVER, i would still like to hear the pro's response. I urge all of you judges out there to vote con because of all the dropped arguments, but would also still like to hear the pro's response if at all possible.
nickoboy1992

Pro

nickoboy1992 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
48 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
The problem there isn't the motive, it's that the action is inappropriate to the hierarchy of motives going on :).

Insulting me would, in most contexts, justify my ignoring you :)
Posted by Bnesiba 8 years ago
Bnesiba
if i insult you, would that justify you breaking into my house and stealing my valubles? no. it wouldnt.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Nothing wrong with anger, revenge, or spite, if applied to a target worthy of it :)
Posted by Bnesiba 8 years ago
Bnesiba
Sorry, i apparently misunderstood.

your still wrong though:
for example:

in some 3rd world country, there are some slavers. they make me angry for some reason, so, i sneak into their camp, and free all of their slaves JUST TO GET BACK AT THEM.

only outcome: free people.
motive: anger, revenge, spite, etc.
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
*sighs* No. In the context of my statement the only relevant outcome is the beating to death of the person.
Posted by Bnesiba 8 years ago
Bnesiba
the premise was flawed. the ends good. clearly ends did not indicate flawed premise. thereby proving you wrong...
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
You are in essence equivocating. :)
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
No you simply drew an example where the conclusion was removed from the reasoning of action. :)
Posted by Bnesiba 8 years ago
Bnesiba
Quote: you.(puck)
"Ends are derived from their contingent premises. If the premise are flawed, naturally the ends will indicate as such."

i simply gave an example of how you were wrong.
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
"thats my point... you said that outcomes are automatically bad if premisis were bad.

clearly, by beating him to death, i committed an IMMORAL action. however, i saved hundereds of lives. (good outcome).

because of this, we NEED to look to the morality of the action, NOT the outcome to determine morality."

You appear to want me to be arguing for consequentialism. I am not. :)
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
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Vote Placed by Justinisthecrazy 7 years ago
Justinisthecrazy
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Vote Placed by The_Devils_Advocate 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by Bnesiba 8 years ago
Bnesiba
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